Today it is exactly six months since my operation to remove the cancerous parotid gland and lymph nodes (or, in technical terms, a parotidectomy and modified radical neck dissection) and six months since I woke up with a new face and in a new world.
In these six months, I have learned a lot about myself and other people. I've learned that if I don't make an effort to go out in public,there's a risk I might just stay indoors and become a bit of a hermit. I've learned that I find it hard to let myself get upset and angry about it all. I've learned that I can generally cope but sometimes need help to deal with my emotions. I've learned that physical exercise is essential for me to maintain emotional equilibrium. I've learned that I care more about what I look like to the world than I thought. But above all, I've learned how absolutely wonderfully caring people are - all the medical staff who have cared for me at each stage, my church family and friends, my neighbours, my good friends - those I see regularly and those I see rarely - my three lovely friends from school (still in touch after knowing each other for over 40 years and still all as loopy as ever!) - and, most of all, my amazing husband and children. Neil especially has devoted all his time and energy to caring for me when I have been physically incapable of doing things, to reassuring me that he doesn't notice my facial palsy and that he loves me just as much as ever, if not more. He has been, and is, the rock on which I set myself to face the world.
There's a lot to be thankful for there, really. I have learned that people who matter don't give a fig about how I look. They are just happy I am here and that's exactly what I feel - I would rather look different and still have some side-effects even months after treatment than not be here at all. I have been given a second chance at life and I am going to make the most of it.
So, in answer to my title question - should I celebrate or commiserate - the answer is: CELEBRATE!!!
I'm still alive. If I hadn't gone so quickly to get checked out and if the doctors hadn't treated me seriously, there's a chance I might not have been. We shall celebrate this evening, not in the time-honoured fashion with a glass of fizzy (still can't abide the thought, let alone the taste, of any alcohol) but by going to hear Charley Boorman talk about his various adventures both with and without Ewan McGregor. Amy is particularly interested because of their Mongolian adventure and because they donated books to her fundraising efforts last year.
Special wishes today to my friend I mentioned yesterday, who starts her radiotherapy today.